By Bay City News Service
In an ongoing effort to close a $2.3 million budget gap, the Caltrain Board of Directors approved fare increases and service reductions Thursday.
Caltrain, which serves an estimated 38,000 people every weekday, is working to close the budget gap with the elimination of certain routes and increases in fares and pass prices effective Jan. 1, spokeswoman Christine Dunn said.
Caltrain also intends to start a trial express weekend service program next year, she said.
All of the changes were discussed at length with community members and Caltrain riders during three community meetings in August and one public hearing in September, Ms. Dunn said. About 1,700 comments were submitted at the meetings or via e-mail, mail, or telephone input, she said.
"Most people were in favor of increasing the fare and keeping as much service as possible," Dunn said.
Starting on Jan. 1, it will cost an additional 25 cents per zone to ride Caltrain. The price of fares for travel within the same zone will remain the same. The fare increase is expected to bring in an additional $1.4 million in annual revenue, she said.
The last Caltrain fare increase was in January 2009, when the prices of all tickets and passes were increased by a flat 25 cents, Ms. Dunn said. This increase is larger because the fare increase goes up with each additional zone on the commute.
Caltrain officials expect to save about $160,000 from the elimination of four trains between the hours of 9:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on weekdays, she said. The northbound 237 and 257 trains and southbound 236 and 256 lines will not run during those midday hours beginning Jan. 1.
An additional $600,000 is expected to be saved from the elimination of ticket offices at the San Francisco and San Jose Diridon stations starting Oct. 11, she said. That change leaves just ticket vending machines to serve Caltrain riders paying their fares at those stations.
Amtrak will reassign the seven employees that were filling those ticket offices to new positions, she said.
Also beginning Jan. 1, Caltrain will launch a three-month pilot project that will test the success of express weekend service that commuters have requested, she said. The schedule, which has yet to be determined, will be designed around rider demand, she added.
The pilot project will cost Caltrain about $107,000, Ms. Dunn said. That money will come from savings generated by fuel prices being lower than what Caltrain had budgeted for, she said.
The board also voted to increase the on-board bicycle capacity of many trains. The vote would assure that all trains have two bike cars, which would add one 40-bike gallery car to the trains that currently only have one, she said.